From the Journal of Pat McArdle
On a cold but sunny afternoon in March 2005, I was in a military convoy speeding through Afghanistan’s northern desert when we passed a small group of children carrying huge bundles of twigs on their backs. Our interpreter explained that their mothers would be burning these twigs to cook their dinner. As we approached our camp in Mazar-e-Sharif, I remembered earning a Girl Scout badge long ago for making a cardboard and foil solar cooker that could melt chocolate bars. I knew nothing more about this technology, but the sight of those children got me thinking. Afghanistan has abundant sunshine but little cooking fuel. Over the past forty years of war and chaos, the Afghan people have cut down most of their trees for firewood. They now have only bushes and animal dung for their cooking fires. What about the sun? I googled solar cooking and up came the ‘Solar Cooking Archive’ run by an organization I’d never heard of—Solar Cookers International.
I was astounded at the volume of information on this website, downloaded several plans (including the CooKit) and began to build and test my handmade solar cookers on the roof of our compound. A few months later, when I boiled a liter of water in a remote village in the Hindu Kush using a CooKit, the astounded villagers wanted to build their own solar cookers. I was amazed at this instant technology transfer and was forever hooked on solar cookers.
SCI’s wiki was the entry point for my long involvement with solar cooking technology. In the past fifteen years, I’ve heard similar stories from people around the world who wanted to learn more about solar cooking, found the wiki, and began to build, design, market, and advocate for this zero-emission technology.
SCI’s wiki (www.solarcooking.org) is the largest solar cooking database in the world. It was started by Washington State-based SCI member Tom Sponheim in 1995. Tom, who joined SCI in 1989, still manages the wiki today along with Paul and Ben Hedrick. Originally known as the Solar Cooking Archive, SCI’s encyclopedic trove of information was converted by Tom in 2006 into a wiki. Today’s SCI wiki houses a continuously updated, searchable database that includes thousands of news articles, solar cooker plans, videos, testing protocols and country-by-country information on solar cooking use. The wiki is SCI’s most effective outreach tool, with several hundred thousand people accessing its data every year.
Over the past quarter-century, SCI’s wiki has become the entry point for millions of people who want to learn more about solar cooking technology. I was one of those people.
Any user can post or update videos, news, and events including their own innovations. The wiki also serves as an organized repository for information posted by the 4,000+ members of the Solar Cookers World Network Facebook group. To make this information available to a global audience, anyone can, with the push of a button, translate the information into 46 languages. The wiki also helps individuals locate and contact other groups and individuals in their region for cooperative ventures. Please visit and/or contribute to the Solar Cooking wiki at www.solarcooking.org.
Photo Credits: Pat McArdle